Extra Point: Duke collapses, UNC gets big win
Posted October 15, 2012
Extra Point is a sometimes serious, always sarcastic Monday morning recap of what you missed from ACC football action over the weekend.
The Triangle Trifecta was off the table this week thanks to NC State's bye week, but it didn't mean Duke and North Carolina couldn't keep the good times rolling. Yeah, about that.
Blue Devils throttled following epic first quarter
Two days later, it's still hard to process exactly what happened to Duke at some point late in the first quarter Saturday against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. For those who don't know, process is the new spelling for "accept."
The Blue Devils were rolling early, amassing a 20-0 lead in the first 12 minutes thanks to a Sean Renfree-to-Jamison Crowder bomb, two field goals and an absurd pick-six by Jordan Byas. Twitter was perilously close to breaking across the Triangle, and Duke seemed poised to become bowl eligible for the first time in 18 years, in Week 7 no less. Essentially, all was right with the world.
Then things got extremely normal, considering the recent history of the two teams. Logan Thomas found Marcus Davis for a 40-yard gain, setting up Virginia Tech's first score of the day, and the Hokies never looked back. By halftime, Duke's lead was just 20-17, although the game already looked and felt more like the final score.
David Cutcliffe was quick to point out following the 41-20 Virginia Tech win that Duke's "bubble was burst", but luckily for the Blue Devils, there is plenty of season left.
That's the important thing to remember, Twittersphere. No, College GameDay won't be in Durham this weekend when the Tar Heels come to town (good job, good effort on that note), but a winning season and bowl game appearance are still extremely possible and even likely.
Without a win over North Carolina Saturday, the hunt to end 18 years of painful history could have to wait until the final two weeks of the season when the Blue Devils visit Georgia Tech and host Miami. Games against Florida State (Oct. 27) on the road and Clemson (Nov. 3) in Durham will be tough match ups for the banged up Duke defense.
Speaking of that defense, Duke will need to improve in a hurry against the run if it wants a chance of hanging with the Heels and Gio Bernard Saturday. Bernard has tallied 652 rushing yards despite missing two games, and he's run for 262 and 177 in wins over Virginia Tech and Miami in the last two weeks.
UNC survives penalties, downs Miami
Whether it's high-scoring affairs or penalty-filled inefficient throw downs, strange things seem to happen in south Florida. Maybe it's related to Miami's crowds, which are leading the ACC in pitiful midway through the year.
North Carolina became the latest victim Saturday, surviving to secure an 18-14 win over the 'Canes despite committing 15 penalties, missing two field goals and turning it over inside Miami's 10-yard line early on. Luckily for the Tar Heels, Stephen Morris and the on-again, off-again Miami offense was off again, totaling just 155 passing yards before Morris left in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
North Carolina's offense, on the other hand, racked up nearly 500 yards and was balanced for the second week in a row. In fact, the Gio Bernard-led rushing attack finished with more yards the Bryn Renner, who went 25-of-40 for 214 yards. Bernard tallied 177 yards and nearly 7 yards per carry against Miami's less-than-impressive run defense, pushing his season rushing total to 652 yards.
There was little debate even before Saturday that Bernard is the ACC's best running back, but his performance against the 'Canes solidified that talking point. Assuming he continues to get the 20-25 touches he deserves each week, expect Bernard to remain atop the league in rushing for the rest of the season.
Moving into the final five weeks of the season, North Carolina's growing issue with penalties will be a talking point worth watching. The Tar Heels now lead the ACC in penalties per game at 8.7 and penalty yards per game at more than 77. In the last two weeks, UNC has racked up an unthinkable 30 penalties for 266 yards. The absurdity of the errors (especially pre-snap infractions) gets ignored a bit thanks to back-to-back wins, but throw up 15 penalties in a loss to Duke and suddenly everyone is talking about discipline.
As for the Duke game, expect the Tar Heels to try and establish their run game early. The Hokies ran up 269 rushing yards on the Blue Devils a week ago behind a breakout performance by freshman J.C. Coleman, and the continued injury problems for Duke's defense aren't likely to be resolved by Saturday evening.